There was evidence suggesting that married couples tend to live longer than those who are widowed, divorced, or never married. But a recent study that delved deeper into marriages challenged this notion, yielding quite contrasting results.
In this research conducted at the University of Nevada and the University of Michigan, 373 heterosexual couples were thoroughly surveyed about their marital disagreements — on money, in-laws, children, and leisure activities, and whether they had negative impacts on their health.
The researchers followed the participants over the first 16 years of marriage and compared the health conditions of spouses who reported to experience more conflict, with spouses who reported less.
It was found that marital conflict negatively impacted the health of spouses, and couples who got along early on in their relationship experienced health benefits, but have gone through the reverse later on in their marriage.
Why Couple Stay in an Unhappy Marriage
Before further exploring the detrimental effects of an unhappy marriage, let’s first figure why couples continue to stay in it.
The reasons can be either chosen unconsciously or consciously. For one, they fear to be alone, whether they admit this or not. After years or decades of being together, one spouse may have become too dependent on the other, hence the thought of them being apart becomes daunting.
For couples who have children, they may endure a bad marriage for the sake of their kids. It is known that children suffer stress and trauma from their parents being divorced, so spouses choose to put the well-being of their kids first before their own happiness.
Religious and cultural beliefs may also impede the decision to divorce. It is considered a sin in some religions, and a taboo in a number of cultures. Thus, leaving a marriage, even if it’s a miserable one, makes spouses feel as if they’re going against everything they’ve been taught.
Negative Impacts on Health
The study on the health impacts of marital conflict found that serious disagreements release stress hormones, and cause inflammation, changes in appetite, and the immune system.
Veronica Lamarche, professor of social psychology at the University of Essex, warns that these negative bodily responses may cause long-term damage. Conflicts that are never resolved and dealt with hostility or defensiveness can be particularly damaging to the health, so much so that the effects may be as bad as those of smoking and drinking.
It is advised that married couples should work on communicating more effectively to solve a conflict, and keep it from taking a toll on their health. But if divorce is the best course of action, how can attached spouses find the strength to leave?
Leaving an Unhappy Marriage
If you’re hesitant to file a divorce because of your children, your total honesty is the key. Let them know that you’re considering a divorce. Make it known that it may affect their daily life and routines, but reassure them that it isn’t their fault and that you’ll still be there for them as always.
It is important to make children understand that divorce is a serious matter than can have undesirable effects. This will make them feel validated in the emotions they’ll experience. It’s still going to be hard for them, though, so it’s vital that you keep on being reassuring.
Work with an experienced divorce lawyer in your city, because their professional guidance will also help you cope with the divorce and its effects on your children and personal well-being. Consider seeking therapy for you and your kids as well. It will provide a safe environment for you to express your emotions.
Remember that it isn’t really worth it to stay in a marriage that does nothing good for your health and happiness. With self-love and support from loved ones and professionals, you will overcome this with more strength and with the happiness you truly deserve.